Release Me! Musky National Anthem


Please “Release Me” let me go
I don’t love you anymore
To waste our lives would be a sin
Release me and let me love again


Advise  From A seasoned Pro

The Midwestern lakes are now encased in a layer of ice and covered with a blanket of snow. As you peer out from your cabin window and watch the ice fishermen work their magic on your favorite lake, you reach for your Musky photo album to reminisce about the past seasons fish that you caught & released. You have plenty of pictures to show & tell the rest of the hardcore musky anglers, but do they really tell the story? Do those pictures really show off that musky the way you want it to? If you’re like me, you have got plenty of photos that just don’t do your fish the justice that it deserves!

Here’s a typical scenario. You have been fishing for most of the day, with not even a follow. Suddenly a nice musky smacks your lure and the battle is on, the adrenaline rush is huge! As you battle the fish, you are screaming instructions to your partner, “get the net, clear the deck, get the hookouts, I need the bolt cutters, here she comes, get the net ready, don’t blow the net job!” This is truly a 5-alarm fire drill! After all of this, you hoist the fish out of the net for the photo opportunity of a lifetime. Still shaking, you whisper, where’s the camera? Now the search is on. After 15 compartments are opened and a camera is located; a hasty photo is taken, because you are more concerned about the fish than the photo! Days later the developed photos reveal that your partner in his haste, cut off ½ of your head, the camera was crooked resulting in an off centered photo, you have your eyes closed and half the fish is missing! Typical musky photo, right?have

You’ve attended countless outdoor Hunting & Fishing shows & seminars that covered everything from live bait sucker fishing for Muskies, to early spring muskies, to fall trolling etc… you name it ;you have  heard it. Not one keynote speaker or big time musky guide has ever taken the time to address photographing your musky. Nope, this is the final consideration. Everything prior to the netting, boating & releasing of a musky has been written & re-written hundreds of times and has taken precedence over the simple snap of a shutter! Once that fish is released to fight again and all of the high fives are finished, what will you have left to remember that fish by? The answer is your photo. That’s why a good photo is so important, and so frequently taken for granted. Sure you have got tons of blurry photos, off centered photos, dark photos, photos with ½ a musky in the frame; but do you have photos that are suitable for enlarging or framing? Well if not, don’t worry, this article will help you accomplish just that!

Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up over the years that have really helped me increase the quality of my musky photos. If you can use these tips as a guideline for photographing your next release, you’ll see a dramatic increase in the quality & composition of your photos.

  • First
    • of all, keep the fish in the bag (net) and the net in the water, until you are ready for the photo. The fish will continue to get oxygen as long as it is in the water! Remember the fish and its safe release is your main objective, not the photo! Always have your camera(s) within easy reach. I keep 2 cameras out at all times when I’m guiding customers. One camera is a Polaroid Instamatic that I use for viewing photos immediately; the other is a high quality 35mm that I use for prints. I usually take several photos with each camera. If your camera is accessible, you’ll be much more relaxed when it comes time to use it!
  • Second
    • , make sure the fish is clean of debris and blood before snapping the shutter. Rinse off the fish with a mug of water if necessary! Contrary to popular belief, bloody fish or anglers do not look good on film.
  • Third
    • , make sure your subject does NOT have the sun behind them! If you shoot into the sun, your picture will be black. Turn them or the boat away from the sun before you shoot and before you bring the fish out of the net! If it is shady or you have limited light, use your flash as a “filler” to eliminate shadows or dark spots.
  • Fourth,
    • have your subject remove their sunglasses & tilt up their baseball cap or hat so you can see their face. Have them look at the fish and S-M-I-L-E!

  • Fifth,
  • and most important, frame the angler & fish. Get the entire frame filled up with your subject. Get yourself as close to the angler & fish as possible. Look at your subject before you shoot to make sure what you are viewing is what you want in your photo. Finally, when all looks good snap the photo. Take several photos & several poses, don’t be cheap; you never know how each photo may turn out. If you take several shots your odds of getting that special one you’re looking for, are greatly increased!

 My  final thoughts about releasing  Muskies:

Here are a few facts you should know;

According to the old FIELD $ STREAM magazine Musky fishing contest records from 1935-1961, there were only five (5) Muskies over forty pounds caught on live bait (suckers, minnows & chubs) out of the 295 muskies recorded.

So why even use live bait at all?

You may be getting tired of hearing about release, but with the pressure of Musky tournaments, more and better equipment, media hype and more and better musky hunters, everyone must strongly consider releasing his/her fish to maintain and improve the musky fishing we have today. How can anyone KILL something that has fought so valiantly and given so mush pleasure? If you want to catch a 20  Lb Musky , we have to release ones that are 10 pounds. If you want a 30 pound trophy, you must release 2one of 20 pounds ,  and if a 50 pound beast is what you are after, you must consider releasing the trophy 30 and 40 pound monsters!

Except for live bait  fishing (like suckers & minnows) and netting, I really don’t have a problem with any method, as long as it is legal….. I do troll on lakes where it is legal, but I only do so as a relief from casting.  Generally, I troll later in the day when my arms and legs are about to fall off!  To me, it’s a way to keep a line in the water while I sit on my ass to take a much needed break!

I hope I got through to all you SUCKER FISHERMAN!